Buying a house in France can seem complex and complicated.
Buying a home in your own country can be quite complex and intimidating.
But when it comes to buying a house in France, things can get even more complicated.
Here are a few points of interest that will make it easier for you to find your way around the French property market.
You will also see an overview of some interesting French real estate investments.
Enjoy reading this page on buying a house in France: Tips and advice for foreigners wishing to invest in French property.
Table of Contents
- 1 Also go and see during the winter
- 2 Talk to a counsellor first – Buying a house in France: tips
- 3 Don’t be fooled by low prices
- 4 Renovating in France? Think twice..
- 5 Consider renting first
- 6 Enlarge your search area
- 7 Go property hunting yourself | Buying a house in France: tips
- 8 Take into account excessively high noise levels
- 9 Investigate damages when investing in sale-leaseback real estate
- 10 Go exploring – Buying a house in France: Tips
- 11 Amenities & shops nearby are important
- 12 Try to stay overnight before buying
- 13 Meet the neighbours & talk to them
- 14 Do your best to integrate
- 15 Research the immediate surroundings before buying property
- 16 Be patient and accept local customs
- 17 Respect subdivision regulations and spatial planning
- 18 Make a financial plan – Buying a house in France: Tips
- 19 Find legal advice | Buying a house in France: tips
- 20 Related information about France
Also go and see during the winter
What to look out for when buying a house in France? The weather and the climate!
As everyone knows, France is a beautiful country and this is especially true in summer (thanks to the magnificent colours of nature and the summer feeling, of course).
That is exactly why it is so important to also visit the area where you want to buy a property in winter.
And this is certainly the case when it comes to property in a rural setting in deep, deep France.
Only then can you know what you are starting for the other half of the year.
And it’s not just a matter of knowing everything about the climate…
You should also check locally which shops, cafés and restaurants remain open throughout the year.
Are markets still organised in winter? Is the village square alive? Is there a friendly atmosphere?
Also try to find out how many houses in the neighbourhood are holiday homes and how many of them function as real empty ghost houses during autumn and winter…
It may be useful to consider whether you will have neighbours during these colder months.
A livelier environment during the off-season is advisable in most cases. After all, man is and remains a social animal.
Talk to a counsellor first – Buying a house in France: tips
Before you book your tickets or jump in the car to the incredibly beautiful France, it is advisable to talk to a counsellor.
Specifically, you could find out from a tax expert and/or estate planner how best to buy property in France and which rules to follow.
It will cost you a fee, but it is a good way to avoid unpleasant surprises, also in the longer term in terms of inheritance law and succession planning.
Sound legal advice with a focus on the long term is thus well worth the investment when it comes to a property investment in France.
Don’t be fooled by low prices
Remember the following: If the price is too good to be true, it probably is.
Even though it can often seem like good value for money in France, keep in mind that the annual running costs can be higher than originally thought.
Think of taxes, maintenance costs and heating costs that will absorb part of your income and/or capital.
And let’s not forget the cost of any renovation if you want to buy a property to renovate in France.
And remember, there are no penalties for asking about the annual costs associated with the property.
You can find this out from the owner, agent or building agent.
Questions are free and it is your right to ask questions about such matters.
The last thing you want is to be faced with annoying, annually recurring hidden costs.
Strive for transparency and ask for transparency yourself.
Renovating in France? Think twice..
Are you thinking about buying a house in France and renovating it yourself?
Then stop romanticising everything.
Think long and hard about how much time, energy and money this will take.
It can take years to complete your renovations if you do it yourself and it can soon feel more like a task than a dream.
Be careful with large renovation projects
Even small projects can cost you an arm and a leg, so think carefully before you choose to buy the frame/renovation property of your dreams…
Unless, of course, you have enough time and money to turn this run-down property into your dream home.
Although there are certainly some positive stories about people who renovate beautiful old houses in the French countryside and turn them into perfect real estate, there are at least as many, if not more, horror stories.
And make no mistake: Even if you were to carry out the renovation using local subcontractors, you are not safe.
You will have to learn to cope with the southern mentality that also prevails in France.
What is not done today will be done tomorrow (or next week, or the week after that, or next month)…
Keeping a tight schedule on renovations is impossible in France. You are too often boycotted by the other culture and approach.
Does the renovation make financial sense? Buying a house in France: Tips
Renovate and give it your all, that sounds good and it shows a positive mindset.
But do not forget to approach things objectively and analytically.
It is important to assess whether you will ever recover the money you put into the renovation if you sell the house later.
After all, what is the point of investing your hard-earned savings in real estate in a loss-making project? The financials must make sense!
Protecting your assets from capital loss and making a profit are important issues for property investment.
Also bear in mind that selling your house in France can sometimes take much longer than you originally thought…
So with all these things in mind, it is important to assess whether you have enough money to make the house habitable without tearing your trousers or going bankrupt.
Consider renting first
If you are not sure about where in France you want to buy your second home, why not rent or go on holiday first?
This allows you to get an idea of the way of life in this place and to study transport, weather, other neighbourhoods and shops, without the financial risk.
By taking things slowly, step by step, you will have plenty of time to sort out your priorities before making your purchase.
It is also possible that you will discover new properties that are not advertised by an estate agent, while also getting to know the region and its inhabitants better.
Enlarge your search area
It is also important that you visit a lot of houses that arouse your interest and that you use these viewings to find out exactly what you want.
Use Google Maps and even, if possible, Street View to get the best view of the houses from all angles.
This is useful if you have to travel a long way from abroad to get to the house (and cheaper too!).
In this way, you can save valuable time that you would otherwise spend travelling to a house that was not your thing from the start in terms of location and immediate surroundings!
Go property hunting yourself | Buying a house in France: tips
Do not limit yourself to estate agents in the area of your dreams.
On the contrary, you can save a lot of money by avoiding these brokers.
Good websites to find French property deals
- Check France’s most popular website Le Bon Coin – Real Estate Department which displays an interesting range of properties for sale.
- Looking for an investment? Here you will find an interesting range of passive property investments in France.
Investment offers | Buying a house in France for recreational use: Tips
Be sure to check out the following properties for sale in France for mixed use (private + rental):
- Buying a second home in France (Luxury Wyndham Halcyon Retreat Golf & Spa Resort)
- Up to 8% guaranteed interest on holiday home in this French luxury resort in the Limousin (here you can invest in real estate with a rental guarantee)
- Investing is possible from as little as € 42,500
- Get 2 weeks of free private use per year
- Carefree buy-to-let property – you do nothing yourself and passive property investment is possible here
During your visit and in France, it is also worthwhile to register with the town hall and the local notary in case these authorities have more information about houses that are currently (or soon) on the market.
- Recreational real estate as an investment
- You can participate from EUR 17 230
- Increasing returns per year up to 8%
- Interest is paid quarterly
- Buying and letting property without worries
Take into account excessively high noise levels
Get to know the area well…
Many people who have bought a house in France for the first time notice too late that their town or village is much noisier than they expected…
Investigate damages when investing in sale-leaseback real estate
Watch out for the French commercial law that stipulates the rights for leaseback promoters.
For example, a French building developer who specialises in selling and then renting back to the investor may demand compensation if you, the property owner, wish to terminate the lease early – even at the end of a 9- or 11-year term.
Fortunately, there are only a few French professional leaseback promoters who use this in practice.
But nobody ever tells you that this can be an unwanted effect at the time you buy the property!
So be sure to inform yourself thoroughly and check the small print.
Go exploring – Buying a house in France: Tips
Do not immediately and impulsively say goodbye to your own home abroad or buy a second home in France.
First rent, stay in a camper van/caravan or stay in the area where you might live and research the property where you might live.
Tip: Keep an eye on local farms too!
Cattle traffic, dogs and roosters might ruin your French idyll on a daily basis.
Amenities & shops nearby are important
Besides the necessary presence of logical facilities (sewage, electricity and water supply), the location of the property in France is also very important.
Do not be overwhelmed by the most beautiful French house ever, only to realise that the baker, butcher and supermarket are miles away.
It may not seem important before buying a second home in France, but having basic food supplies (bread, milk and meat, fruit and vegetables) within walking distance will become important when you spend time there!
Of course, you can make the occasional big trip to the supermarket for groceries, but this can become very annoying when you suddenly find yourself missing a certain ingredient such as milk or eggs.
Try to stay overnight before buying
Try to rent the house or property you eventually want to buy and spend the night there.
It is important to find out how well or badly you sleep.
In addition, it allows you to get to know your neighbours and local residents without any obligation.
This introduction and communication allows you to experience the mentality of the locals towards foreigners.
Meet the neighbours & talk to them
If you are going to buy French property, visit your future neighbours (if possible) to see their reaction when “foreigners” move in next door.
You may be lucky and get friendly advice and help from immediate neighbours and even neighbours further away in the village.
This probably sounds obvious, but there are many foreigners who have unfortunately also experienced a distinct lack of helpfulness from the neighbourhood in the past…
Do your best to integrate
All attempts to speak French are welcome and when in French company, it is polite to speak French to your interlocutors and to consider your mother tongue as last resort.
You will be surprised at how helpful the French will be if you simply try to speak French.
Do not hesitate to ask for help and support to speed up the learning process of the French language.
French people will be happy to help you and they enjoy your status as a newcomer if you show that you are really making an effort to integrate!
Benefits of AVF (Acceuil Ville Française) | Buying a house in France: tips
If there is an AVF (Acceuil Ville Française) nearby, it is a good idea to join it!
After all, membership costs only a few euros a year and it is an organisation that welcomes newcomers to the neighbourhood and organises many activities.
So the people you can meet there will be about as new as you are.
Here you can meet other newcomers from the neighbourhood, make many new friends and participate in weekly events, meetings and discussion groups.
On top of that, you will also learn a lot about the area and its traditions.
You will also be able to get help for almost any problem that comes your way.
You will also be invited to various meals, parties and drinking occasions when you join them.
Give local customs a fair chance: collecting shellfish, fishing for shrimps and finding the best places to pick fruit from fruit hedges are all great things to do.
Again, the local AVF will introduce you to local experts and show you how to do it safely.
Finally, it is advisable to take the time to talk to neighbours and greet local villagers kindly when you cross them, as this will earn you “goodwill”.
Tip: Do you really want to show your best side? Then you can roll up your sleeves during the end-of-year period with classic pen and paper.
Send Christmas cards to every neighbour (even if it is not the custom in the area, they will appreciate it).
Research the immediate surroundings before buying property
Do a thorough research of the immediate surroundings of the property you have in mind before making your purchase.
Visit the street and the premises frequently and at different times of day and night, during the working week and at weekends.
For example, you might think that a particular village is a beautiful and peaceful retreat, but you might be very wrong about this..
Huge trucks can drive past your house and make everything shake, there can be a slaughterhouse, an incinerator, a pig or chicken farm or a rubbish dump nearby with unbearable (dead body) odours as a result, there can be a large industrial farm nearby that sends noisy tractors out every day, and so on.
You might even be bothered by a nightclub down the road that seems far enough from civilisation in broad daylight…
This means that every Friday and Saturday you could be awake all night because of the continuous flow of cars to and from the club.
This flow of cars and noise pollution can continue until the last visitors go home (sometimes this is not until 6 a.m.).
So do your own research and do not rush. Find out if there are any building sites in the vicinity that can be built on (this may spoil certain views in the future).
Be patient and accept local customs
Everyone knows that you mustn’t do anything in a hurry (even the French people know this)…
After all, the French do not know the meaning of the word “hurry”!
Consequently, the customer service of certain French companies is sometimes poor or even very poor.
Try to stay calm about this, it won’t change…
Having said that, a lot of people like France because of its pleasant rhythm of life and enjoyable way of life.
Depending on the village and the region, some supermarkets may offer a rather limited range, and food and crafts may not be cheap.
This is very regional, as you may just as well have a region in mind where food and drink (also local) are very keenly priced!
If you have in mind a region where the shops are quite expensive, it may be interesting to grow your own food and prepare it yourself.
Respect subdivision regulations and spatial planning
A warning about building permits in France… Never, ever apply for a building permit retroactively.
You would not be the first to be rejected after applying for a building permit retrospectively!
In other words, do not start renovating without first contacting the city council or mayor to get further instructions and guidelines.
You should not take any risks in this regard.
Take your time to go through the local bureaucratic procedures.
Be patient and do not try to take a smart shortcut under any circumstances…
Otherwise, you may well have to demolish everything you have built and renovated..
Make a financial plan – Buying a house in France: Tips
Don’t listen to the typical smooth and dreamy salesmen in tailored suits with imposing big, shiny watches and a head of hair carefully styled with gel …
Draw up a financial plan based on your available funds.
Figure out a smart financial plan that makes sense for both your property purchase (including any renovation costs) and your new holiday behaviour.
If this means selling your house abroad or taking out a second mortgage on it, talk to some banking institutions that specialise in property finance abroad.
Find legal advice | Buying a house in France: tips
The last tip of this page Buying a house in France: Tips and points of attention revolve around the legislation in both your own country and in France.
Talk to both a lawyer/counselor in your own country (depending on where you are resident) and a notary public.
Those few extra hundred euros of advice are a wise investment, even if you are good at French and even if you buy through an accompanying broker who speaks your mother tongue.
Especially for inheritance, succession planning and taxation, a strong, long-term strategy is essential.
For example, if you buy property in France as a couple (as joint property) and one of the two dies suddenly, how will the property pass during the inheritance?
An expert can help you insert certain clauses to ensure that everything is in accordance with your own preferences!
The following information about France may also be of interest to you:
- Buying a holiday home in France – Tips and advice for making the right decision
- Buying property in France – Ten very important points to consider
- Second home in France as investment property with up to 8% guaranteed annual return and 2 weeks free private use
- French recreational real estate with increasing annual returns of up to 8%